Europe Takes IP Enforcement Build-up To Intergovernmental Channels 30/07/2007 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)By William New Advanced European countries are increasingly looking for channels to school their neighbours and worldwide free-trade agreement partners on the enforcement of western-style intellectual property rights. And in order to get them to bite, officials are promoting the benefits to countries themselves of creating and protecting their own ideas. Now an effort is underway at a United Nations body to help build the IP systems of transition economies such as those in Eastern Europe. “We look at both commercialisation and enforcement aspects of IP issues as part of overall economic policies for innovative development and competitiveness in our member states,” said Andrey Vasilyev, director of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Economic Cooperation and Integration Division, which led a three-day meeting ending Friday. “Our main focus on economies in transition strengthens their capacity to tackle this issue on the basis of best practices, but at the same time we hope the process will lead to a better understanding on the part of the more developed countries of the challenges that these countries in transition face.” The 25-27 July conference hosted by UNECE included two days of panels under the heading, “Intellectual Property Rights Protection and Transforming Research and Development Outputs into Intangible Assets in Economies in Transition,” followed by the annual meeting of the UNECE Team of Specialists on Intellectual Property. The meeting drew some 80 officials from national IP offices and agencies, international organisations, and research institutions, and business representatives. It looked at best practices and policies in intellectual property commercialisation, and protection and rights enforcement in the 56-nation UNECE region, with a particular focus on countries with economies in transition. “Down the line, the goal is to help our countries build up their IP systems,” said a participating official who added that this means first exchanging experiences like best practices, and then moving to capacity building. There were four themes to the conference: transfer of technology from research institutions to business; IP strategies for entrepreneurs and small businesses; enforcement; and IP audits, accounting and valuation. The first meeting of the group was held in November 2006. At this week’s meeting, the focus was on development of a best practices guide (on commercialisation, protection and enforcement) expected next year, and beginning a move toward capacity building within countries. The group also is working on a comparative report on the commercialisation of intellectual assets. In addition, the group has the mandate to continue exchanges on experiences in IP protection and commercialisation. The basic underlying assumption of the meeting was that a stronger intellectual property system is beneficial, and that UNECE members have knowledge and ideas to patent and protect. A source characterised the view as: “A well-designed intellectual property regime increases national wealth and benefits consumers by stimulating research and investment into new technologies and innovative products, and by enabling the transfer of technology, including between countries at different stages of economic development. Innovative industries are key drivers of economic growth and key providers of well-paying jobs, thus contributing to the achievement of broad development objectives.” But a message of the meeting was that receiving the benefits of intellectual property rights is not automatic, sources said. It requires favourable legal, regulatory and policy frameworks, a national IP strategy tailored to specific conditions and with high-level political support and financial backing for implementation, a UN source said. Also seen was the need for training, and to “sensitise” policymakers, law enforcement, businesses, consumers and academics to the importance of IP, the source said. From the meeting, it became apparent that UNECE’s member countries from Eastern Europe, the Southern Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia have a strong interest in working together and with more advanced member countries to bring their IP systems up the same level, sources said. Also at the meeting it was demonstrated that other international organisations support the effort, they said. The UNECE effort in some ways parallels that of the European Union, which is raising enforcement at every opportunity including the UN (see related story). Developing Country View? As appears to be the custom in developed-nation gatherings on IP enforcement, the UN conference seemed to pay little direct attention to the concerns of developing countries faced with the increasingly aggressive protection efforts of IP rights holders, most of who are located in developed countries. But there was recognition by the UNECE Executive Secretary Marek Belka of Poland of the possibility that too many rights can hinder innovation. “The best IPR system is not necessarily the one that uses the widest-possible definition or grants the broadest possible rights,” Belka said in prepared remarks. “A balance has to be struck between the need to give temporary exclusive rights to innovators so that they can recover their investments, and the need to make new knowledge available for use by future innovators.” Developing countries appeared to have a surprising champion in the room: an official from the UN World Intellectual Property Organization, where the strengthening of enforcement also is encouraged by Europe. Industry representative Marie Pattullo of AIM European Brands Association used strong language to raise fear about the health and safety risks of counterfeit products. “We’re not stopping this disgusting, foul stuff from getting [into markets],” she said, arguing that most of it originates in developing countries. A WIPO official followed by saying that the agency is “trying to empower” the other member states because “they are asking to play the same game.” She pointed to the new WIPO Development Agenda and said only one percent of WIPO Patent Cooperation Treaty patents are owned by the 46 least-developed countries. The official posed the question of what is happening to the ideas of individuals and research centres in those countries. “It’s all about allowing people to participate in the IP system,” she said. William New may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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